crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters
A recent case in Great Britain about foster parenting and lgbts have some of the right practically salivating in terms of how they can exploit the situation. And as it turns out, they got it all wrong. What's worse is how the mainstream media pushed the story.
This the scenario laid out:
Owen and Eunice Johns of Derby, England, were told by judges sitting in the High Court in London that gay equality laws must “take precedence” over the rights of Christians to act in line with their faith.
The couple, who have fostered 15 children, had sought a judicial review of a 2009 decision by the Derby City Council to defer their application to be approved as short-term, respite, foster caregivers because of their views on sexual morality.
The judges were asked to consider the abstract question of whether public authorities should consider applicants' views on sexual ethics when deciding to approve them as foster parents.
The judges stated that Christian beliefs on sexual ethics may be “inimical” to children and implicity upheld a submission by the publicly funded Equality and Human Rights Commission that children risked being “infected” by Christian moral beliefs.
If children are placed with parents who have traditional Christian views, “there may well be a conflict with the local authority's duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of looked-after children,” the judges said.
The “discriminated Christian” angle is taking up all of the attention in the media. The following are the headlines laid out by various news sources:
British court rules couple too Christian to care for kids – USA Today
Pentecostal couple find no comfort in the High Court – Church Times
And several other articles feature personal exposes of the couple complete with pictures of the two in either a loving embrace or holding hands.
However it would seem that a lot of folks went for the senationalistic appeal of this story and did not bother to do suitable background work.
According to blogger Gavin Drake:
For a start, the couple had not been banned from adopting or fostering – the City Council’s social services and children’s panel hadn’t made a decision about whether or not Eunice and Owen Johns would make suitable foster parents. But, after social workers asked questions about how their Christian views would affect their response to a child who said they were gay; the couple and the council decided to make a joint application to the High Court for guidance.
And according to Robert Pigott, BBC News religious affairs correspondent:
The case is likely to be seen as a landmark decision, as senior judges ruled so decisively against any idea that attitudes might be justified purely because they were Christian in origin.
The court discriminated between kinds of Christianity, saying that Christians in general might well make good foster parents, while people with traditionalist Christian views like Mr and Mrs Johns might well not.
Such views, said the judges, might conflict with the welfare of children.
And why would that be? Well one could easily see when reading the summary of the decision, particularly the part regarding how in 2007, the couple was assessed by Jenny Shaw, an independent social worker:
Referring to the discussion on 23 July 2007, Ms Shaw said:
“both Eunice and Owen expressed strong views on homosexuality, stating that it is “against God's laws and morals”. They explained that these views stemmed from their religious convictions and beliefs. Eunice explained at a later interview, that she had always been brought up to believe that having a different sexual orientation was unnatural and wrong, and that these convictions had not come about as a result of being “saved”.
In our initial discussion on this issue, when asked if, given their views, they would be able to support a young person who, for example was confused about their sexuality, the answer was in the negative. Eunice at this time also mentioned a visit she had made to San Francisco, in relation to it being a city with many gay inhabitants. She commented that she did not like it and felt uncomfortable while she was there.”
They are also recorded as telling Ms Shaw that they would not feel able to take a child to a mosque.
Then there is this discussion:
Referring to a subsequent discussion with Mrs Johns on 7 August 2007 (Mr Johns was not there) Ms Shaw said:
“I expressed my concerns regarding their views on homosexuality and said that I felt that these did not equate with the Fostering Standards where they related to the need to value diversity, address a child's needs in relation to their sexuality, enhance the child's feeling of self-worth and help the child to deal with all forms of discrimination. I emphasised the need for carers to value people regardless of their sexual orientation. Eunice responded by saying that she could not compromise her beliefs, but that she did value people as individuals and would be able to support a young person on that basis. Eunice informed me that her nephew, who lived in the U.S., is gay, and that she has been to stay with him and his partner, and had not treated them any differently from anyone else.
I discussed with Eunice, four possible scenarios, and asked how she might support the young person:
1 Someone who is confused about their sexuality and thinks they may be gay.
2 A young person who is being bullied in school regarding their sexual orientation.
3 A young person who bullies others regarding the above.
4 Someone in their care whose parents are gay.
Eunice's response to the first situation was that she would support any child. She did not offer any explanation as to how she would go about this. On a previous occasion when the question had been put to Owen, he responded by saying that he would “gently turn them round”. In the second situation, Eunice said she would give reassurance and tell the child to ignore it.
In response to the third situation, Eunice said she didn't know what she would do. In the case of someone whose parents are gay, Eunice said that it wouldn't matter, and that she would work with any one.”
She recorded her judgement as being that “Eunice's response to these hypothetical situations was somewhat superficial, and ignored the impact that her strong beliefs on the issue, could have on her work with young people.” However, at a much earlier stage in the process Mrs Johns had assured a social worker that she would never seek to impose her belief system on a child or to denigrate the parents for their lifestyle or sexual orientation.
Mr Johns's response to the first postulated scenario is, it might be thought, particularly revealing. There can be no doubting the meaning and significance of his reference to “turning” such a child round.
My point is that no one did any critical work to get the full story. Of course those on the right – i.e. the National Organization for Marri
age, the American Family Association – don't give a damn about lgbt children, so there is some expectancy that these groups will overlook that cruical factor – i.e. what harm could being in this household do to an lgbt child.
But for the mainstream media, such lack of attention to a crucial part of the story is irresponsible. Whether or not these couple is being discriminated against is only part of the story. What harm could their environment do to an lgbt child is another part of the same story and as far as I'm concerned, it's the important part.
And it's the part which no one seems to care about.
To me, that's sad.